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Aberford Road Bridge, HUL4/18

A Grade II Listed Building in Garforth and Swillington, Leeds

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Latitude: 53.7968 / 53°47'48"N

Longitude: -1.3829 / 1°22'58"W

OS Eastings: 440742

OS Northings: 433568

OS Grid: SE407335

Mapcode National: GBR LSSJ.DP

Mapcode Global: WHDBL.QTNN

Entry Name: Aberford Road Bridge, HUL4/18

Listing Date: 5 March 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1419088

Location: Leeds, LS25

County: Leeds

Electoral Ward/Division: Garforth and Swillington

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Garforth

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Garforth St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Leeds

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Railway skew basket arch overbridge, constructed for the Leeds & Selby Railway between 1830-34, to the designs of Walker & Burges; the contractors were Hamer & Pratt.


Railway skew basket arch overbridge, constructed for the Leeds & Selby Railway between 1830-34, to the designs of Walker & Burges; the contractors were Hamer & Pratt.

MATERIALS: squared and coursed quarry-faced limestone and sandstone ashlar.

PLAN: single-span with provision to accommodate four tracks.

One of a sequence of bridges on the Leeds & Selby Railway which share a common design. The wide arch springs from an impost band and has stepped, rusticated and v-jointed ashlar voussoirs. Wing walls are straight and the parapet is set upon a square-moulded ashlar string course; both parapets have been raised by courses of ashlar and it is understood that the original coping has been re-used.


In the early C19 Leeds was a major textile manufacturing centre and needed a good transport connection to the sea for the import of raw wool and export of finished cloth. The pre-existing river and canal system to Hull was slow and expensive and a railway link from Leeds to Selby and then onwards to Hull was considered to have potential to improve the transport infrastructure, and could also benefit local coal mine and quarry owners.

In 1825 George Stephenson was asked to survey a possible route to Selby. However, financial uncertainties led to the project being postponed and Stephenson concentrated on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway instead. In 1829 the engineer James Walker was asked to review the Stephenson proposal. Walker (1781-1862) is best known for designing harbours, docks and lighthouses, having been appointed consulting engineer to Trinity House in 1825. However, he also played an important role in the early development of the railway system. In 1829 he went into partnership with his assistant, Alfred Burges (1797-1886, father of architect William Burges), though Burges does not appear to have been involved in Walker's railway projects. Having resurveyed the route Walker suggested some adjustments to enable the use of horse or locomotive power without the inclusion of inclined planes worked with stationary steam engines. The proposed route ran from Leeds to the River Ouse at Selby via Crossgates, Garforth and Milford, a distance of just over 19 miles. Walker also suggested that the plan put before Parliament allowed sufficient land to be purchased for the construction of a four track line. It was authorised by Parliament in 1830, four months before the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened, and was fully opened by December 1834.

Walker acted as consulting engineer, and in common with other early railway builders, had a resident engineer for the day-to-day supervision and some of the detailed design, using Thomas Dyson, and, from 1832, George Smith. Nowell & Sons of Dewsbury and Homer & Pratt of Goole were the two contractors. The scale of the project was unusual because of the decision to provide four tracks. This resulted in a trackbed of 66ft (20.1m) rather than the typical two track line which had a trackbed of 30ft (9.1m); even Brunel designing for his broad-gauge track used that dimension. The extra width gave the railway a quite different character from the simple lines and waggonways that had preceded it. The most distinctive characteristic of the line was the design for the overbridges, which had to span the four tracks rather than the usual two tracks. Walker did not use a twin-span bridge, but designed a bridge with a single, basket arch (three-centred arch where the height is less than half the span) and an unprecedented span of around 60ft (18.2m). In the event only a twin-track line was laid, and in many cases one side of the arch is obscured by the earth embankment. The bridges were built of stone with the exception of a brick underbridge at Barwick Road, Garforth, and two iron bridges, one of which survives at Crawshaw Woods.

Aberford Road Bridge was constructed between 1830-34. Subsequently, both parapets were raised by the addition of several courses of ashlar; it is believed that the original coping was re-used.

Reasons for Listing

Aberford Road Bridge, HUL 4/18 of c1830-34 by James Walker of Walker & Burges for Leeds & Selby Railway, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an original overbridge built between 1830 and 1834 on the pioneering, first phase Leeds & Selby Railway;
* Engineer: designed by James Walker, a renowned C19 engineer, who constructed the line with a four-track bed and distinctive, single-span overbridges with unprecedented spans of 60ft (18.2m);
* Architectural interest: as a single-span, basket-arch, skew bridge demonstrating a high level of craftsmanship in its construction, detailing, and dressing;
* Intactness: the bridge is largely unaltered and the raising of the parapets has been carried out sensitively in matching ashlar.

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